2011 Greenbuild Conference - Day 2

Hopping from session to session between essentially two separate conference facilities has kept me on the move. Here’s a snippet of take home info from a few of the sessions…


Baltimore’s Sustainability Master Plan and Green Building StandardA huge public and legislative process in Baltimore over the last few years has culminated in the phased implementation of requirements for all buildings in the city over 10,000 sq ft to achieve LEED silver or equivalent. The city found that small projects, especially renovations, had difficulty achieving LEED certification. So it developed an “equivalent” standard in the form of a modified LEED rating system. Baltimore’s system, although slightly less rigorous and definitely more adaptive than that of the USGBC’s, requires both submittal review and site inspection. They have also taken the approach of fully integrating the certification into the building permit review and inspection process. In fact, they claim that it has required no additional time or customer expense other than the internal cost of training the city staff on the system itself. Although the system has really only been in action this year with a total of 6 permits issued, the city claims that they’ve seen no negative impacts on development activity.

Legal Forum – Green Construction ContractsA group of lawyers and contractors formed a panel discussing recent developments in green construction litigation and the evolution of green construction contracts. Responding to a comment that periodically clients are interested in the intent and process of LEED but are not able or willing to commit to following through with actual certification, a discussion ensued amongst the panel regarding how to address this issue. Ultimately the consensus was that project teams (Owner, Contractor and Architect) really should treat these “LEED-lite” projects as if they were actually pursuing a specific level of LEED certification. This applies to the process, the construction documents and the contracts. The caveat is that, for the owner, saying one thing in the contracts and doing another in actuality can still potentially have some negative legal consequences when it comes to major real estate and leasing transactions. For most projects, however, this approach keeps the contracts clean and the responsibilities and liabilities of all parties as clear as possible.

Residential Summit – LEED Platinum Low-Income Multi-Family under $100/sfIn Austin Texas, a non-profit organization called Foundation Communities has developed a new low-income multifamily project that helps support housing, education, and childcare needs for a once struggling section of the city. They have done the project on a tight budget with just under of $100/sf and they have vastly exceeded the individual project threshold for Platinum under the LEED for Homes Rating System. Sunshine Mathon, Design and Development Director of Foundation Communities, was kind enough to share not only the list of measures that helped them achieve Platinum status, but also insight on cost increase to the project for making those choices.

Here are a few items of note:

  • Advanced Framing was a zero cost add to the project. This was partially because they also employed shop fabrication of wall panels. The shop fabrication also allowed integrated truss framing to be utilized over openings instead of bulky headers that would take up space desired for insulation.
  • A couple dollars per square foot bought them a whole set of water and energy measures, including storm water retention and treatment as well as an innovative solar water supply system. One of the problems with centralizing solar water for multifamily is that lines typically have to be on recirculating loops which adds to system cost and presents significant maintenance issues. For this project they were able to vertically group clusters of units served by the same solar system to keep distribution legs at a minimum and eliminate recirculating runs entirely.
  • The project’s most expensive green feature was the utilization of the Mitsubishi City-Multi heating and cooling system. This system utilizes ductless mini-splits tied to a centralized refrigerant loop. Because the units are connected to each other in this fashion the system has the ability to transfer excess heat from one part of the project to where it is needed in another location. The Foundation justified the $2.85/sf increase in cost to the project with the savings its tenants would realize month after month.

Infrastructure for Sustainable CommunitiesWSP Flack + Kurtz does high performance building engineering and systems planning for projects all over the world. The topic here was scalable infrastructure in the context of green design. A lot of potential exists for communities that cluster infrastructure nodes without resorting to singular municipal systems requiring enormous footprints and extensive distribution systems. Localized waste treatment was used as an example infrastructure system to which a nodal approach can be applied. These nodal facilities can have much less total impact on their communities than larger singular facility counterparts. Their implementation, however, goes against the grain of the current NIMBY culture in the US.

WSP reviewed their work on a new city outside of Dehli in India called Jaypee Sports City. Although it was a bit of a leap to try to apply the concepts of a brand new sustainable city to infrastructure retrofit in existing communities, it should be acknowledged that these endeavors do serve as testing beds for the scaling of infrastructure and the nodal plant concept. It would be wise to keep an eye on these cities and how the infrastructure scales up to accommodate extreme growth over the next several years.

Stay tuned for one last post from Toronto...